School safety: Parents will have to wait for ‘buzz’ to get in some schools

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 16, 2013

The focus will be on safety as students return to school Monday, and officials are encouraging parents to be patient and to be observant as students head back to the classroom.

In two of the county’s school systems – Andalusia and Opp – some visitors will be required to be “buzzed in” after the morning drop-off process is completed.

Opp Superintendent Michael Smithart said access control locks were added on all exterior doors.

“The best tip I could give to parents is to be patient and understanding,” Smithart said. “I know this will be an inconvenience; however, we can’t compromise safety. We will most likely not have this perfected at the beginning of school. We are still learning the ins and outs of the system. Just be patient with us and understand that we have the students’ best interest at heart.”

County School Superintendent Shannon Driver said that he expects an outstanding school year.

“Safety is going to be a big priority for us,” Driver said. “What we’ve done is upgrade all of our doors in the system with heavy duty locks that are keyed all alike. We also have the ability to lock the buildings down; some with key code entries on the buildings.”

He said parents shouldn’t notice a change in the way they access the buildings.

At Andalusia Elementary Thursday, parents were given instructions on the school’s new entry policy, stating that all building entrances will be locked at 8 a.m.

“The front door will also be locked,” said Principal Patty Taylor. “To gain entrance, you’ll need to push the buzzer and speak to the office personnel. Proof of identity may be requested, along with a valid reason for the visit.

“This will all be new for us, so we ask for your patience,” Taylor said. “Remember we just want to provide the safest environment for our school.”

Among the other safety items listed were:

• refrain from using cell phones in the loading/unloading zones.

• to begin dropping the student off and not walking them into the building beginning Wed., Aug. 22.

“The morning unloading is a time when our children are particularly vulnerable,” Taylor said. “The rush to get to work makes this time one when adults must be patient and mindful of the potential danger associated with cars and children. AES staff and faculty will provide adult supervision so that you may drop your child off as quickly as possible.”

Navigating the school’s drop off line can be confusing for new parents.

“All car traffic will enter from Moore Road and exit Hwy. 29,” Taylor said. “Each inbound lane is color-coded to provide directions to the area of the building the student unloading.”

For students in kindergarten and first grade, parents should follow the yellow directional areas in front of the school.

For students in second through fifth grades, follow the blue directional arrows from the Moore Road entrance to the blue loading/unloading zones at the rear of the building.

All parents, regardless of the child’s grade, are asked to not park cars in the traffic loading/unloading lanes. Parents should stay in the car and follow the directions of the teacher on duty. Students should get out of the car closest to the sidewalk. Cars are not allowed to bypass the unloading lane to avoid waiting in line.

At the end of the school day, parents are asked to follow the same directional instructions for their child’s grade level.

“Parents are not allowed to park on the outside curb and walk across traffic to pick up their student,” Taylor said. “Parents should stay in the car and follow the instructions of the teachers on duty. Your child will be sent to your car. Older siblings will be allowed to come to this loading zone as a convenience for parents.

“We have 850 students to educate and provide a safe environment,” Taylor said. “Please help us provide the best possible experience. Together, we make a great team.”